Henry Miller and Book Shelves

“To win through by sheer force of genius is one thing; to survive and continue to create when every last door is slammed in one’s face is another. Nobody acquires genius — it is God-given. But one can acquire patience, fortitude, wisdom, understanding. Perhaps the greatest gift to love what one does whether it causes a stir or not.” Henry Miller…

My dad loved Henry Miller’s work, my mom, no. My parents always had two book shelves — my dad’s and the neutral public book case in the living room. Certain books of my dad’s NEVER sat near my mom’s books. Heaven forfend (I just wanted to write “forfend”) I don’t remember it being any other way.

In our house in Nebraska my dad and I built his office in a corner of our basement. It was a great experience for me to work with my dad every evening building the two walls. Once the studs were up, we pulled electricity through them and, naturally, as it was the 1960s, paneled them. My dad loved mahogany, so we used mahogany paneling. One wall was a wall; the other was a bookcase which we stained. My dad was a decent carpenter of the crude carpentry variety. I don’t know if he could do fancy finished carpentry, but I do know we didn’t have those tools.

My dad’s bookshelf mostly held his scientific books but also the books he’d loved when he was younger like Boccaccio’s Decameron. There was his collection of science fiction (he loved Isaac Asimov and Ray Bradbury) and two books by Henry Miller.

When we moved back to Colorado from Nebraska, my dad’s bookshelf was still in the basement. By then he could no longer walk up and down stairs, so if he wanted a book he sent me for it. At a certain point in my life, I guess when I was 16 and allowed to date, Henry Miller’s books appeared at eye level. How they got there? I have no idea. I guess my mom would have had to move them, but that seems unbelievable.

The two books my dad had — Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn which were banned in the United States because of the sexuality. While I noticed them when I was a teenager, I didn’t read them then. I read them much later. I was never that impressed by the copious sexuality in the books (it gets a little redundant and I was definitely from a different, more liberal, generation). I was impressed by the kind of thinking in the little quotation above. Most inspiring to me were his words about being a writer which I extrapolated to being an artist, for which life, with all its struggle, disappointment, joy, frustration, tedium, rapture was the artist’s workshop

Henry Miller lived a long and incredible life and knew amazing people. I really loved seeing the characterization of him in the recent Masterpiece series, The Durrells in Corfu and when the film Reds came out I was surprised and delighted to see him as part of the movie, a living voice, from the time.

If at eighty you’re not a cripple or an invalid, if you have your health, if you still enjoy a good walk, a good meal (with all the trimmings), if you can sleep without first taking a pill, if birds and flowers, mountains and sea still inspire you, you are a most fortunate individual and you should get down on your knees morning and night and thank the good Lord for his savin’ and keepin’ power Henry Miller, On Turning 80

P.S. Poet friends, on the top shelf above my dad’s head you might see a pink book with a black oval on its spine. That is a rhyming dictionary. My dad yearned to be a poet.

Rumination on Dogs, gardening, and painting

I’m having house guests next week which is requiring a kind of cleaning and rearranging I haven’t had to deal with in more than a year. It’s probably a good thing (guests and cleaning). Yesterday I hauled all the finished paintings (well packaged) out to the garage and pondered whether I’m likely ever to get on my bicycle again. I don’t know, so the bike stays. Other stuff out there? There’s a lot of brand new stuff I doubt I’m going to use — a tree saw with clippers, you know, the 8 foot tall kind? A bike rack for a car I don’t have any more?

It’s probably time for a yard sale or time to put all that stuff up on Facebook to sell.

I also found a box of books — nice books, books I actually like except the books of erroneous history (grrrr…) my books of Chinese fiction from the 20th century, the 1920s, 30s, 40s, 50s and one from the period of the Cultural Revolution. Also a couple of Pearl Buck books that I decided to bring in with me so they can nestle in my Chinese cabinets for the nonce.

The dogs got into the garden yesterday, and the frost took three beans last night so… It’s OK. It was an experiment anyway. I have six beans left (hopefully) and more seeds. I have also ordered a more substantial fence that will really keep the dogs out, again, hopefully. I was pretty angry at the dogs, but, they’re just dogs, and a little research showed me what had motivated their trespass. There was a desperate need to bury an old rawhide, something that could be done a lot more efficiently in soft dirt.

I “met” another artist yesterday on Facebook. She’s a younger woman and has a huge portfolio of work. Western artist in Montana. I thought about all that last night and in a way I wish I’d started sooner (and I have kind of always painted) because my “body of work” isn’t very large (thank goodness; this way it fits in the garage). I think I have three good paintings, but that isn’t strictly true. Some of the work that has been sold and is gone living in distant houses and (I hope) appreciated is good. I looked at some of the old work (photos) and thought about what I learned and loved painting some of them. Here’s a little gallery of small paintings I loved painting.

The Berkeley Pit mine is a painting no one will ever buy. Who wants a painting of a toxic pit mine? But that day in Butte, Montana was important to me. I was with my niece, from whom I’m now estranged (not my fault or desire), and we were on our way to Billings. I was sitting in our rental car in Butte when my Uncle Hank called to tell me my Aunt Martha had died. It was kind of an intense moment, and I liked the city and found the mine site fascinating.

The dandelions were in my back yard here in Monte Vista. The cornflowers were in my front yard in Descanso.

The green oil is a trail was on a small mountain in California where I hiked once with Dusty in spring. I wish I had that painting, but I gave it away when I moved to Colorado. Another painting I did that I loved painting is a water color of wild plums, but I sold it years ago. It hangs in a house in Colorado Springs. And, of course, I love all the cows I’ve painted.

So I had to ask myself, do I paint to have a portfolio or why? Well other than it giving me the opportunity to send $75 to obscure small towns in Texas.

I’ll Laugh at Myself Someday…

I’m on a list serve for announcements about art shows. I was pretty jazzed about this for a while until I realized that this involved having my own booth and transporting it hither and yon. I was sort of OK with the hither and yon, but not OK with a $1000 investment in a regulation booth that I would have to assemble on my own hither and yon. Additionally, there are entry fees to everything.

I decided instead to look for juried shows in galleries and art centers close to home. Hither is OK. Yon would require shipping paintings which, since those I would enter are large, would be very expensive. So…a friend in Alamosa posted a call for a show at the Breckenridge Art Center.

Breckenridge? 2 hours away! In the mountains! Near friends in Colorado Springs and Denver! Beautiful drive! Waaa-HOOO!

I loaded the entry form and read everything on it except the phvcking address of the Breckenridge Art Center. I entered three paintings at $25 a pop, reveling in the possibilities…

Then, last night a friend pointed out that the event is in….


Breckenridge, Texas



I immediately wrote to see if I could get my money back, but I’m not hopeful. But I guess if I don’t get my money back, I’m still entered. I guess I should find out where Breckenridge, Texas is. But damn. Texas in August?

So I looked up Breckenridge, TX. It’s a town of 5000 and its description in Wikipedia makes it seem like a Texas version of Monte Vista, CO. It seems to be smack dab in Larry McMurtry land, though a little south. I guess it would be an adventure. I think my painting of a snowy mountain might be a big hit there in August.

Ode to Dog Hair

A walk-through dog wash would be perfect. One
at my back door that washes, brushes
and dries my dogs. In minutes they’re done.
With a magic dog cleanser that rushes
To their skin, lifts the dust, with a smell dogs like
(And I like too). Once a day would be enough.
When night falls, or after a muddy hike
When fur is wet, their paws dirty and rough.
Instead of this I must groom them myself,
Brush in hand, unwilling pup at my feet.
I could have smaller dogs, the size of elves,
even a shedless dog, curly-haired and sweet.
As fate and love would have it, their furry
filaments are my burden to curry.

This is a Shakespearean sonnet, more or less. 14 lines, ababcdcdefefgg. Iambic pentameter (10 syllable lines with the stress on every other syllable, but I’m not a fetishist about that). The final six lines are supposed to set up a situation established by or counter to the first 8 lines. I’m not big on rules, though, other than the rhyme and syllable thing. I’m writing sonnets as a mental challenge, mostly, but once in a while one might be good. I started writing sonnets when I realized I just don’t have much more to say in one of my customary blog posts at the moment.

Still, I don’t know if Shakespeare (or anyone) before me has written a sonnet to dog hair. We might be witnessing a moment (low or high, you judge) in literary history.

Thoughts on a Walk Today With Bear

Pastel spring breaks through shyly, hesitant,
“What if?” Knowing snow could fall on the land
before white winter’s determined, rampant
cycle fades toward fecund summer’s grand
promises. Ambivalent, spring pauses, slow
to leave in this high valley. Soft showers
yield to summer’s green trees and fruitful show
of barley in the fields, potato flowers.
Then, come September, summer surrenders
Weary. Its moment too short for many,
Fine with me. Among season’s contenders,
Winter season is better than any.
Nature rests in winter’s patient freeze,
Ice crystals in the air, hoar frost on trees.

~~~

This is a Shakespearean sonnet, more or less. 14 lines, ababcdcdefefgg. Iambic pentameter (10 syllable lines with the stress on every other syllable, but I’m not a fetishist about that). The final six lines are supposed to set up a situation established by or counter to the first 8 lines. I’m not big on rules, though, other than the rhyme and syllable thing. I’m writing sonnets as a mental challenge, mostly, but once in a while one might be good. I started writing sonnets when I realized I just don’t have much more to say in one of my customary blog posts at the moment.

P.S. I never imagined writing 2 in a day but it was so pretty out there at the Refuge in the rain, what could I do? Now I have to go cover the beans. Freeze and snow in the forecast. 🙂

Rainy Day

The dark clouds gather; it’s starting to rain.
The dry fields need it. Crops don’t grow in dust.
In deserts it’s not easy to grow grain.
A plowed field can fill the sky in a gust.
My dog comes in to tell me, “It’s raining!”
Not much moisture yet, but the breeze smells sweet.
The air is cool, fresh, humid, earth-settling.
Petrichor rises from the empty street,
A brief sprinkle with the promise of more.
The clouds have settled for the duration,
A break from endless sunny skies restores
The mind beneath the cloud formations.
Rainy days in this bright dry valley are
Worth celebrating, so precious, so rare.

~~~

And, once again, I enter this with all good intentions of using the word of the prompt and I forget. Well there’s a glimpse of hope for tomorrow.

This is a Shakespearean sonnet, more or less. 14 lines, ababcdcdefefgg. Iambic pentameter (10 syllable lines with the stress on every other syllable, but I’m not a fetishist about that). The final six lines are supposed to set up a situation established by or counter to the first 8 lines. I’m not big on rules, though, other than the rhyme and syllable thing. I’m writing sonnets as a mental challenge, mostly, but once in a while one might be good. I started writing sonnets when I realized I just don’t have much more to say in one of my customary blog posts at the moment.

Beatled into Submission

Sunday morning my radio station
Plays the Beatles. One song after another
Drag on heart’s memory if I listen.
Sailing on time’s seas, small boat of wonder
And confusion, of self and future.
I began this journey that is no
Clearer now as I near the distant shore.
The sails are worn, and sometimes I row.
I didn’t like the Beatles much back then,
I wanted something serious, deeper,
Lyrics beyond “I want to hold your HAAAANDD”
Answers in top forty to awaken sleepers.
“You’re gonna carry that weight a long time.”
Long time? I’ve carried that weight a lifetime.

~~~

Excuse me for forgetting the word of the prompt. I got wrapped up in writing this messterpiece of the poetic arts.

This is a Shakespearean sonnet, more or less. 14 lines, ababcdcdefefgg. Iambic pentameter (10 syllable lines with the stress on every other syllable, but I’m not a fetishist about that). The final six lines are supposed to set up a situation established by or counter to the first 8 lines. I’m not big on rules, though, other than the rhyme and syllable thing. I’m writing sonnets as a mental challenge, mostly, but once in a while one might be good. I started writing sonnets when I realized I just don’t have much more to say in one of my customary blog posts at the moment.

Never Simple…

Last night as I was drifting off to sleep it hit me. The name of the doc with the offensive (to me) literature in his waiting room is the same as the young woman killed in the Iraq war for whom our tiny little Veterans Park is named. “Could it be?” I couldn’t sleep without knowing so I did 3 minutes of research.

Yes.

Anyone FROM this small town or the region would have known who that man was before they walked into that office. Of course, I COULD have known it, but it was a lot less likely.

Now my poor brain is swarming with ethical questions I can’t answer. One thing it explains why the magazines that were NOT Newsmax were veterans or patriot literature. Honestly, it’s excruciating thinking of that dad having lost his daughter. His office is two blocks from the memorial. In her name — some time back and I don’t know if it’s still active — a memorial fund-raiser to provide companion dogs to people who need them, definitely a Martha kind of charity.

I don’t think I’ll ever understand how it is to be from here and, from the first moment of your life, be SOMEBODY to the people around you. Anonymity is the name-of-the-game (ha ha) for life in the Big City.

So what we have here is a nice guy (he was very nice and personable to me on the phone) with a tragic memory and a waiting room that reflects emotions I can’t understand. Yeah, I understand grief, and I understand anger. Those are a couple of old “friends.” But what makes a person espouse the kind of stuff published in Newsmax? To make sure I knew what IS published in Newsmax I looked at it. It’s simply (from what I’ve seen) the news as reported by other agencies but with a strong, right-wing, pro-Trump spin. The news published is definitely slanted, but not really inaccurate. It’s less inflammatory than their video media. Newsmax has clung to the “big lie” only now settling a lawsuit with Dominion voting machines after suing them for fraud. Media like this furthers the “us vs. them” rhetoric that has been so destructive to the union, the “‘they’ are trying to tear down America” line. “They” is me and no one likes that.

If I hadn’t entered that waiting room with a pre-existing bias or knowledge about the genre of periodical, and I had just picked one up, I would have scoffed, but probably not been offended. I wouldn’t have thought much of the doc, though. I would have gone into the exam thinking, “Seriously?”

But what if?

Across the golf course from me is the OTHER father — Mr. M. — who lost a child in that war. I used to see him pretty often and he LOVED Dusty T. Dog. We’ve had a lot of nice conversations. Apropos of THIS story is his politics. His yard displayed one of the few Biden signs in Monte Vista. Do I think he is a “better guy” than the doc? Yeah but he probably isn’t. These are two men with broken hearts who have turned in different directions, but they are friends. The poster advertising the memorial fund for Mr. M’s son was posted on the doc’s door.

Then, of course, my own experiences with that war and its veterans. No, I didn’t lose a child, but I taught many, many young people who returned severely damaged from that debacle. I remember very well watching — with my students — that initial attack on Baghdad, the outrage I and one of my students — an Irish guy — felt and the exhilaration some of the other students felt. I remember the Navy and Marine guys who were in my class who, I knew, would be sent over there. I remember a young woman who dropped out to join the Marines. We had some intense conversations before she made that decision. She came back three years later, mobbed out for PTSD. She was so mentally addled that just a quiz in class stressed her out so bad she had migraines and uncontrollable shakes. There was the young man who served three tours as a sniper. He’d joined up with his best pal who died right beside him one night. This student was wracked by the knowledge that he had interfered in the lives of people who had every right to make their own decisions. He wrote a long long long essay detailing the changes in his mental state during the 9 years he served. “But Martha, the only job for me is probably in the Secret Service or something. The only thing I do well is shoot.”

I have more grim anecdotes about young people returning from the Iraq war and Afghanistan, but that’s probably plenty. A lot is said about the “ultimate sacrifice,” but after those experiences, I’m not sure what that is. And in these cases, these two fathers made (IMO) the ultimate sacrifice. And, unlike them I might wonder what the sacrifice was for? Maybe they wonder, too. I’m sure they’d rather have their kids.

I don’t know.

I can’t begin to figure this out. I don’t even think it’s my job. I want to find a nice anonymous optometry chain where I can be relatively sure of my values not being part of the conversation or decision.

Three Beans in the Field

I’m making progress with the farm but also with re-emerging from COVIDness. I got a check and took it to the bank and when the ATM was broken, I went inside and deposited it. It was a little strange, but considering that every bank I went to in Southern California has bullet-proof glass between the teller and the customer the plexiglass was no big deal. Today I went to celebrate the little boy’s 8th birthday. Spent a little time a couple weeks ago at the Museum. My friend came over for a visit and, both of us vaccinated, it really felt different from the way it’s been for the past year. I’ve invited friends to come and stay in two weeks.



I planted two large Scarlet Emperor beans Friday and one had a hard time. I broke his rootball and it was challenging getting him into the ground fast enough. He immediately drooped in root shock and I wasn’t very optimistic, but true to the resilient nature of his dauntless parents he rallied and made it through the hottest part of a hot day and is doing well. I believe they’ve inherited some tough genes considering they are the third generation to have been “born” here and their parents went through a blizzard that dropped 18 inches of snow and killed off thousands of birds as they were migrating. 😦 The next few night look to be warm enough that I will not have to cover them but I will have to watch the temperatures closely and drape them with the very sheets that saved their parents’ lives.

I am not sure who they are yet, but I think that Szu-ma Chien is the bean that fought for his life today. In the photo with Teddy, he is the one closest to Teddy and closest to the sidewalk. The other two beans in the field? One is still small, but had to go out (Tuesday) because I had no big pot in which to plant him. The other is probably Tu Fu. Time will tell. At any rate, they have no words right now as they are busy putting down roots and contending with their new lives.

The Scarlet Emperor Beans of 2021

The snows fell in summer last year, my beans
Were twelve feet tall, vulnerable, OH NO!!
I covered them with sheets to keep them green
They mostly made it, continued to grow
Gave me seeds for this year, purple and black
Beautiful promises I took gratefully.
And I put them in a small, red sack
In a pink metal box to wait safely
For this spring to come. The beans from 2020
In small pots ahead of summer, have grown
So happily and tall, my house can barely
Hold them till they are safely in the ground.
These undaunted beans are not a metaphor,
But lovely, joyous seeds from a hard, strange year.

Here’s the backstory of the Beans of 2020

I’m gobsmacked by how these beans have grown. In past years at this point in the spring, they might be a foot high. But what should I have expected from the seeds of the dauntless surviving beans of last year? I think I’m going to have to put them in the ground soon even though more cold could come. It’s a problem. They’re saying “We’ll be fine” but I know they might not be. Many years a hard frost hits the apple blossoms in late May. BUT some of them are going out there today. I still have the sheets under which they were formed. ❤

~~~


This is a Shakespearean sonnet, more or less. 14 lines, ababcdcdefefgg. Iambic pentameter (10 syllable lines with the stress on every other syllable, but I’m not a fetishist about that). The final six lines are supposed to set up a situation established by or counter to the first 8 lines. I’m not big on rules, though, other than the rhyme and syllable thing. I’m writing sonnets as a mental challenge, mostly, but once in a while one might be good. I started writing sonnets when I realized I just don’t have much more to say in one of my customary blog posts at the moment.